Indiana News

Founder of Russell Foundation Pleads Guilty to Bilking Investor

1/17/2013

An Indianapolis man has pleaded guilty to bilking over $1.7 million from an elderly Indianapolis doctor.

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54-year old Reverend Michael Russell pleaded guilty to 20 counts of wire fraud and money laundering on Thursday. U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett says Russell admitted that him, former Marion City-County Councilman Paul Bateman and Manuel Gonzalez told the doctor his money would be used to invest in ethanol production, with the proceeds going to fund the humanitarian Russell Foundation.

Hogsett says Russell met the doctor during a medical appointment in early 2007. The victim initially gave the foundation over $700,000 to be used to invest in the Indiana Ethanol Capital Investments, which was organized in February 2007, and listed Bateman as its President and COO. Russell also admitted that Bateman allegedly accepted checks from the victim and deposited the money into Bateman's personal account. Russell also told investigators that the three allegedly urged the victim to invest $1 million in a corporate bond for the Russell Foundation. Hogsett says Russell, Bateman and Gonzalez actually used the money to buy jewelry, entertainment, clothing, cars, travel, and to pay Russell's personal bills.

Assitant U.S. Attorney Joe Vaughn says Bateman's position on the City-County Council, and a high-ranking IMPD officer's involvement in the investment, were used to reassure the victim. Hogsett would not say if anyone else would be charged in the scam, nor would he say if the investigation is complete.

Bateman and Gonzalez, who was listed as Chief Financial Advisor for the Russell Foundation, will stand trial on several counts of money laundering and wire fraud charges on February 11th. Vaughn says the plea deal calls for Russell to serve nearly 5 years in prison, but Judge Tanya Walton Pratt could increase, or decrease the sentence.

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